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Making of: Dress-Up Pups artwork and development story

01-dress-up-pups-intro

“Making of Dress-Up Pups”, match-3 game based on idea of cute outfits creation for dogs and puppies. From earlier prototypes to final release.

“Dress-Up Pups” – is match-3 game based on idea of cute outfits creation for dogs and puppies. You play for the Pattie character, which is working in special kind of fashion agency for dogs. Her boss is planning vacancy and asks Pattie to be in charge while he is away. It’s a good opportunity for Pattie (and the player) to show how good she can deal with the business.

Game was created by RetroStyle Games and AnaWiki Games teams and is available from our site and a number of game portals: http://retrostylegames.com/index.php?action=dress-up-pups-match-3

We began work on our first match-3 game right after the release of Mars Miner in order to try our hand at the already thriving casual games market.
The project, under the working title of “Fashion Life”, combined within itself match-3 and dress-up functionality. At that point the dress-up concept was pretty unique, or at least not popular enough to inspire us, as we came up with it all on our own and failed to find anything of the sort present on the market at the time.

Under dress-up mechanic idea of cloth gathering with further applying to game character figurine was meant.

The project’s ambitious nature and complex design expanded swiftly. We even wanted to include some “The Sims”-like elements, allowing the player to develop their character, go to work, make money, visit various events and pick out appropriate clothing for each occasion. And that’s not mentioning the minigames. However, the short term goal was attracting gaming portals, publishers and investors.

We prepared a demo version of “Fashion Life” (with SDDs in two languages) to present at a casual software development competition in Russia (alas, can’t recall the name). The demo was still pretty far from the final product but we hoped that the judges would grant due praise for the potential, graphics and team behind our idea.

Needless to say, everything turned out quite differently from what we expected. The amount of feedback we acquired was minimal and the amount of investors that took notice of our project nonexistent. That along with a number of other reasons led to the eventual death of the “Fashion Life” project.
After a year or so, I began noticing a number of games that combined the concepts of time management and dress-up. The ideas in and of themselves weren’t anything unique of course, but I just found comfort in our ideas becoming a reality in some way.

Puppy Reference

I could end this sad tale with the above image but I’d like to continue.

After a while our team decided to take another look at “Fashion Life” and reevaluate our view of the casual games market. As a result, we came to the conclusion that the game was too complex and ambitious for a starter project, so we decided to work on a match-3 game again.
This time around we decided to create a product with an optimal minimum amount of features: a simple but attractive match-3 game and nothing more. I hope that clarifies the purpose of the above image.

So the reworked “Fashion Life” concept became the “Dogs’ Fashion” project. Furthermore, we were inspired by a “Maxim” magazine article on clothing for dogs along with all the cute images related to the topic.

Dogs Fashion match-3 game prototype characters

We began developing “Dogs’ Fashion” at a good pace. My CG-business partners invested some funds and promised ongoing support and quality control, which even allowed us to outsource some of the work and noticeably increase the development of the game’s graphics.

At that time, RetroStyle Games only had its own projects to deal with, without any art outsourcing as per our current services: http://retrostylegames.com/index.php?action=artwork

This allowed us to swiftly finish up a sizeable amount of graphical elements including 15 detailed backgrounds, more than 10 characters, icons for the game and a foundation for the upcoming interface, along with completed dialogues and a simple plot.
But our coding efforts just couldn’t match that pace…

When the development of the game’s graphics was coming to a close, we began focusing on creating levels and balancing the game. A number of disputes regarding this particular aspect of the development process and a few others coupled with slow coding progress severely dampened our spirits and motivation.
As a result, the team decided to take a break without giving up on the project.

Due to post-crisis financial troubles at the time, all project participants needed financial support. As such, working on “Dogs’ Fashion” had to be coupled with regular outsourced projects and even with full-time work for some, which clearly didn’t improve the overall development pace for the project.

The game survived in a half frozen state for another half a year. At that point, I reviewed my views on work as a whole and decided to take up RetroStyle Games again but this time in a more focused manner. We began providing graphical outsourcing services on a much larger scale and also took a dive into iPhone app development.

One of our clients turned out to be Roman Budzowski from AnaWiki Games. After successful work on “Perfect Tree”, “Soccer Cup Solitaire” and a number of other projects, we decided to revive the “Dogs’ Fashion” project using our graphics capabilities and Roman’s “kung-fu coder skills”, as he put it.

The new “Dogs’ Fashion” engine provided the game with three match-3 modes instead of just one: swap, chains and group. On top of that, we decided to add collectable items, alter the storyline and add a female character.

At first, we didn’t want to implement a single primary character. It was our understanding that a single character concept wouldn’t be enjoyable for all players. As such, we had first decided to let players experience the story from a first-person view, which is what we based the interface and other elements on.

The new view of the game resulted in having to rework the storyline and the creation of the main character named Pattie. Her boss – the CEO of the Dogs’ Fashion Agency – was at first named Pier de Bone. However, that name was later changed to Bernard so that our writer could insert St. Bernard jokes.

The changes to the featured characters resulted in a need to redraw the comic strips featured in the game as well as another look at the game’s name.
Since neither of the developers were native English speakers, we chose from a list of potential new game names provided by a Canadian writer:

Canine Couture
Simple alliteration

Dressed to the Canines
This is a pun on a well-known English expression “dressed to the nines,” meaning dressed up in high fashion, e.g. in a tuxedo

Dogs on the Catwalk
The “catwalk” is what fashion models walk on. But the fact that it includes “cat” makes it a good pun when you combine it with dogs

Doggy Divas (or Dog Show Divas)
More alliteration

Dress-up Pups
Rhyming, rather than alliteration

Four-Legged Fashionistas (or Furry Fashionistas)
Yet more alliteration

Bow Wow!
Bow-wow is one of many English onomatopoeia for a dog barking. But “Wow!” is of course an interjection to express surprise and being impressed.

The Russian members of the team found some of the names to be rather humorous, but in the end, everyone supported “Dress-Up Pups”, especially since the term “dress-up” had already been present in our previous prototype of the game (Fashion Life) and allowed us to work with the renowned dress-up game genre akin to games like Dress-Up Cats, Dress-Up Girls and so on.

At first we planned on granting players points for each level they passed (points meant to be exchanged for outfit elements). This would’ve ensured that players received access to higher level clothing items based on how well they did at the game. The way this was intended to work can be seen from the screenshot below, however, the concept didn’t make it into the final version of the game.

Roman considered such mechanics to be too hardcore and relatively boring, since the player ended up seeing the same dog for lengthy periods of time.

Keeping that in mind along with a desire to diversify the match-3 game modes, we decided to introduce collectable items (“Around the World in 80 Days”, “Deep Blue Sea II”, etc.). We also implemented a puzzle minigame (put together to display an image of a dressed up pup), thus making puzzle pieces fill the role of collectible items.

In the end, we had developed 10 images of dogs and 30 clothing items for them (though not all of them made it into the final version), 12 backgrounds, 3-4 menu background options, over 40 icons, tiles, comics, interface elements and more.
As a result, we had created around 190 game levels total.

Work on the game began anew in August of this year, and by October we were already testing the end result and sending the pre-final version to gaming portals and publishers. Considering that part of the graphics, concept creation and prototype development were ready beforehand, the game took around 4-5 months to complete in total.
At first Delphi and Asphyre engine was used, later on – BlitzMax.

Overall, I had fired myself up and burned out over the game several times. But in the end, I just had to get it finished and put it out there.
As a result, we did it, and I hope that the story from this point on will be a bit less purposeless and on a bit of a larger scale.

For now the game is available on our sites and at BigFishGames where it’s reached 3rd place among the top match-3 games list and 51st in the overall top list in the past few days:
http://www.bigfishgames.com/download-games/10273/dressup-pups/index.html

I would also like to mention that particular publisher’s interesting survey process here, but I’m not sure whether that information can be released to the public. Anyway, everything what’s happening to your game is real fun and pure interest.

Thanks go out to everyone who took part in the project:
our tight development team, the team at Anawiki Games as well as Vlad Tkach and Alexey Prokopyev for helping me get all of this off the ground back when it was all just a dream.

Thanks also go out to my past CG-business partners for inspiring us and giving us the foundation for the project’s beginning, even though in the end we finished it likely in spite of that help rather than because of it.

And last but not least, thanks to Andrey Oleynik (http://dreamfoot.net/) for hosting, support and assistance with our site.

Thank you for your interest and reading!

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1 comment
  1. andalucandy says: October 15, 20129:30 am

    Your site looks interesting! But long, and I'm getting ready for a dog show so don't have time to ready the whole thing. But I'll be back!

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